Opinion: Jeremy Browne deserves our thanks

Jeremy BrowneSo my good friend Jeremy Browne has announced he is standing down as the Member of Parliament for Taunton Deane. This announcement by him has achieved a lot of opprobrium and gnashing of teeth: ‘too late’, ‘too soon’ – what has been little reflected upon is the burden we place on our candidates and MP’s.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jeremy since 1990, when we met at the University of Nottingham: the long haired, railway-signalman’s cap-wearing, President of the Les Dawson Appreciation Society was a larger than life figure. Flip-flops in summer (and into autumn), the Student Fashion Week 1990 t-shirt and the Rolling Stones records were all part of the ensemble. But with that went a loud cheering laugh, a cheeky smile and grin, and a thoughtful and provocative mind.

It was that sense of provocation that often got Jeremy into ‘trouble’ with factions within the Liberal Democrats – but he decided to enjoy such cut and thrust and banter and seek to weather it out, becoming an engaging speaker at Liberal Youth events, for example.

But that also underestimates his work and contribution – the campaigning in Hammersmith and Fulham with Alexi Sugden, the work with David Rebak in Enfield Southgate (where Jeremy went on to fight Michael Portillo and Stephen Twigg) – combined with the string of attempted selections – I particularly remember Salisbury amongst others.

But there was also his work – initially for Alan Beith MP (working alongside and learning from the amazing Gill Cheeseman), in the Liberal Democrat press office basement with Rob Blevin, David Charlesworth and Julian Astle. It was there that a tabloid wrote that he was PBS – Paddy’s Bastard Son.

But more than anything else Jeremy should take the credit for winning back the Taunton constituency – I should know – I was at the Taunton count when Jackie Ballard was cruelly defeated and I was a candidate with Jeremy for the selection. It was difficult to lose that night, but good to lose to someone whom I knew so well, and who I was assured would be dogged in his pursuit of success.

Every town, every village, every school was visited by Jeremy – again and again – a grid for planning visits, regularly. In time, Jeremy himself was considered a good source of information and induction for any new primary school head in Taunton Deane so often had he consistently visited their school over the years.

There was – and is – rarely a week when Jeremy was not in the local paper – walking the streets with local police, working in local shops, campaigning with Post Offices, supporting famers, villagers and more.

He has recently written (again) Why vote Liberal Democrat. There is little in it to scream about in horror – most of it can be agreed with easily and the controversial bits considered, thought through and measured over time. My copy is on my bookshelf and will remain so.

He brilliantly quipped that there was no better name for a one-term Tory MP that the one he beat to win Taunton back – A. Flook. But now, sadly, Jeremy stands down. I for one regret the decision. Jeremy has always been happy to be a loner – politically and often personally – but he recently lost his father (a successful diplomat, Sir Richard Browne), but has himself recently become a father.

Jeremy is right that 10 years in a job is a long time, but that underestimates, how long he has been in politics – now at least 25 years. As he looks around and ahead, it’s a good time for a change of scenery. I for one, do not wish him good riddance, I wish him good luck and best wishes. Our loss is the gain of his own family. He deserves our thanks.

* Ed Fordham is a party member and activist in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

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59 Comments

  • A very welcome piece, Ed.

    Has always annoyed me that some viewed Jeremy is an interloper in the party instead of being a both a Liberal and a LibDem to his boots. I’ve always be proud this party can boast, and without contradiction, points of views like Jeremy’s and Charles Kennedy’s. I have my disagreements with both, but the Liberal movement both needs and should thrive on such a broad sweep of Liberal thought.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Oct '14 - 12:45pm

    It is understandable that Ed Fordham feels the need to defend his old university friend but that does not disguise the fact that Jeremy Browne is on the far right of the Liberal Democrats and sees the world through free market lenses.

    It is for his ideas that Browne has been criticised so thoroughly and convincingly.

  • matt (Bristol) 16th Oct '14 - 12:48pm

    A bit bemused by the Guardian website which describes him as the leading ‘social liberal’ in the party – shome mishtake, shurely….

  • Paul Reynolds 16th Oct '14 - 1:09pm

    It is good that Jeremy stirred up debate about the UK response to the global rise of China and other large rapid-growth countries. It is also good that he banged on about liberalism. What is not so good perhaps is that he failed to see how the key concept of anti-monopoly (markets) has been used as a quasi ideology to justify big companies ripping us all off, and to promote inaction while the financial stole all those trillions from us. However, as liberals we should be a loud voice against those who object to the concept of markets in principle, meaning people who are in favour of monopoly. When liberals hear the word market we should substitute the expression ‘absence of monopoly’ for this is how liberals should regard concepts of ‘the market’. At the very least it helps to debunk the PR words of some big corporations. When they appeal to the rules of the market, see what it sounds like if they appeal to absence of monopoly ha ha

  • Tony Greaves 16th Oct '14 - 2:34pm

    Of course, anyone can and should join the Liberal Democrats. It doesn’t matter what wild ideas they may or how right-wing they are, we are a broad church so everyone is welcome! (Well, apart from racists and fascists, and anyone who thinks that reducing the present levels of inequality in any serious way since such people are obviously closet Trots…)

    ????

  • South East Liberal 16th Oct '14 - 2:36pm

    I completely agree with Ed Fordham. His standing down was very honourable, only seven months out from a General Election, and particularly after disastrous Ashcroft polling which had a considerable swing to the Tories.
    I like the fact his standing down hasn’t at all given the appearance of a rat deserting a sinking ship, thus putting more strain on the colleague’s he is leaving behind.
    So thank you Jeremy. So long and thanks for all the quips.
    And not to worry, i’m sure Ed and your friends from the campaigns department can fill Taunton with ‘best practice’ literature and nondescript campaign techniques which will be a sure winner next year.

  • paul barker 16th Oct '14 - 2:59pm

    Thanks for this article , it needed saying. As a Democratic Party we owe some loyalty to those we choose to serve us. That applies to Councillors & MPs & it applies double to our Elected National & Federal Leaders.

  • matt (Bristol) 16th Oct '14 - 3:27pm

    I would challenge that being sceptical about the imapcts of Jeremy Browne’s ideas makes one automatically ‘anti-wealth’. It may make one anti-making-the-wealthy-weatlhier-than-they-already are, which is different…

    There is a tad too much dualism around the whole debate, as seen is his criticism of his critics as ‘socialists’.

    I still intend to purchase his ‘Why you should vote LibDem’ book and wil lread with interest…

  • Hear hear, William Hobhouse.

  • Daniel Henry 16th Oct '14 - 3:32pm

    As controversial as Jeremy’s views might be I think it’s clear from these tributes that he put a lot into the party and did a lot to help fellow members.

    As a party believing in broad churches and reasoned debates, it’s disappointing that so many members wish to make disagreement with his views personal.

    Speaking as someone who disagreed quite strongly with his views, I’m sorry to see him step down and wish him all the best with whatever he does next.

  • Well this article tells me that Ed has lots of jolly memories of his old university chum Jeremy.

    What a card to wear a railwayman’s hat? What larks!

    And how revolutionary to be playing rolling stones records in 1990, when Mick Jagger was having a mid-life crisis shortly before getting his knighthood.

    This sort of old school tie camaraderie is to say the least a little off-putting.

    For those who think 25 years in the party is not that long, and who think ten years in a job is not that much, building up Jeremay Browne to be some sort of heroic figure is way over the top.

    There are plenty of candidates who did as much as you describe him doing. Some became MPs, some did not. Some were lucky, some were not. Taunton was not exactly a derelict seat when Browne first turned up there.

    A lot of real railwaymen work in the same job for many more decades than Jeremy Browne’s two terms in parliament and for much less reward. Unfortunately virtually none of them have had the chance to show how capable they might be as a government minister. Jeremy Browne had that chance twice and then he was sacked.

  • John, not sure that is entirely fair – indeed i might even fit the picture you paint of those who did not achieve office – all I have sought to do is reflect that Jeremy adds value to the Liberal Democrats, that his commitment is over decades, he is not some jonny-come-lately that is sometimes depicted, that he is a good and effective local campaigner and that he leaves Somerset stronger not weaker – if you didn’t read that then… well, not sure what to say really… Ed

  • Stephen Campbell 16th Oct '14 - 4:04pm

    @William Hobhouse: “The same is likely to be true for the Lib Dems if we give away economic liberal ideas to the Conservatives and retreat into anti-wealth rhetoric”

    Some of us are not “anti-wealth”, but definitely “anti-mega wealth” and want the wealthy to play their part in society. Instead their wealth is simply hoarded and provides no use other than gaining interest in a bank. These ultra-rich fritter their money out of the country and into tax havens. They use dodgy tax-advoidance schemes that are simply unavailable to most of us (although most of us would not want to do all we can to avoid paying our taxes, which is a duty in a country such as ours). The ultra-rich are happy to receive all the benefits the UK with our infrastructure and public services has brought them, but they then think nothing of pulling the ladder up once they’ve reached the top. They have no loyalty to the UK or its people and will happily take their money elsewhere if they feel threatened. Multinational corporations are sitting on billions of pounds they refuse to spend or invest. Most of this wealth is serving no useful purpose at all.

    I don’t mind people getting wealthy, so long as they have a social conscience, show loyalty to their country and its people and retain their humanity. But I still don’t see why someone, anyone, would need more than, say, a billion pounds to live off. That’s just (to me, at least) vulgar and obscene. What’s the point of hoarding all that money when there are so many people in this country who struggle to live off the very basics?

  • Stephen, you don’t think that your generalisations of the motivations of the “ultra-wealthy” risk being exactly the kind of crass and offputting “anti-wealth” rhetoric which Jeremy has warned us of? I know a number of relatively ultra-rich (there aren’t that many British ultra-rich really), but none of the ones I get on with are the complete bastards you make them all out to be, people who often spend a large amount of their time, energy and money on improving life for other people.

  • Ed,
    I was not trying to be fair. I was being honest. Your memory of the selection battle for Taunton seems to have softened over the years. I seem to remember it was quite controversial at the time. Were there not accusations of dirty tricks etc?

    Whoever the Jeremy Browne was that you knew at university he morphed into someone who worked for the party and spent some of that time denigrating those of us who were against Paddy’s project to merge with Labour. You have not mentioned that bit of his career.

    He then morphed into the candidate for Taunton, remind me how big a majority did he have to overturn?

    His ministerial career speaks for itself — especially his complicity in the racist posters on lorries that roamed round those streets of London where you are more likely to find people of a different colour.

    Then back as MP forTaunton he morphed again into some sort of Born Again Thatcherite. The man was now an admirer of Boris Johnson and calling for joint candidates with the Conservatives.

    Following his decision to stand down there are Conservative Bloggers who are piling almost as much praise on him as you have. I can understand why the Conservatives are happy. Having been given a leg up by whatever has been going on in Somerton and Frome, now they can believe that they have been helped out by their mate Jeremy in the constituency next door. It must seem like all their Christmasses are coming together for Somerset Conservatives.

  • On the selection battle the field was myself, Jeremy, Susan Juned and Sarah Teather. There was no dirty tricks, no appeals – was it tough, yes, was it hard to take yes, was it additionally difficult that Jeremy and I had been so close so so long, of course, but time does make things more rounded. Did Jeremy then deliver on his side of the selection bargain (as it were) to win it back – yes he did: in spades.

    Do I agree with much he advocated, no, not always, do I agree with much he advocated you and others chose not to highlight, yes, I do. His work at FCO on advocating equality and tolerance, fighting anti-semistism, advocating the Holocaust Education Trust to name but one.

    I simply take a rounded view of people within the party, chose not to demolish their personality, nor demonise their motives. How I vote in the policy making process – well that might well go against Jeremy invariably, but that’s why I attend conference as a rep of my local party to vote.

    “He then morphed into the candidate for Taunton, remind me how big a majority did he have to overturn?” (one of the more unpleasant comments I have read…)

    But when someone steps back, then I reserve the right to reflect on them and not entirely negatively – as I know him personally, then i thought that might offer another insight. As some have said, that’s been welcomed. 🙂

  • Daniel Henry 16th Oct '14 - 4:46pm

    I think you’re entirely missing the point John.

    Ed is simply pointing out that Jeremy put a lot into the party over the years, a like all members who have done that deserves respect and gratitude, even if you had disagreements with them.

    Your response that since he’s not the only one to have put work into the party was neither here nor there tbh.

  • “The ultra-rich are happy to receive all the benefits the UK with our infrastructure and public services has brought them, but they then think nothing of pulling the ladder up once they’ve reached the top.”

    The truth is exactly the opposite of what you state. The top 1% of tax payers contribute 29.7% of the total tax take.

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/27/how-many-pay-top-rate-of-income-tax-uk

    Still never let the facts get in the way of the politics of envy, eh?

    By the way, to hear you talk one would think everyone above the basic rate had some kind of moral duty to give all they own to the British State. Thy don’t. You guys need to be careful of killing the golden goose.

    I suggest you do some research into the Chancellorship of Dennis Healey and his attempt to “squeeze the rich till thier pips squeak” or just look across the Channel to Hollande’s France.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Oct '14 - 4:51pm

    I think Jeremy deserves thanks and those characterising him as a right-winger seem to think politics is all about economics. However, he did contribute to the perception that his main interest was what I call feudal economics, i.e. being afraid of taking on the super rich in case they move their money elsewhere.

    I think Stephen Campbell makes a very good point about the irrationality of having billionaires, but what I would say is that this money is often invested into businesses and even if it is hoarded with banks, the banks are then lending that money out. It is not like they just stick all their wealth in Fort Knox.

    I would also ask John Tilley to be a bit less negative. Contribute the ideas you are most passionate about, you can probably win us over on some of these.

  • Stephen Campbell 16th Oct '14 - 5:04pm

    @simon: “The top 1% of tax payers contribute 29.7% of the total tax take.”

    Yes. And that top 1% owns as much as 54.9% of the population put together.

    “Still never let the facts get in the way of the politics of envy, eh?”

    I don’t envy the ultra-rich. I do, however, get very angry when they tell us that we have to tighten our belts while they are getting richer and avoiding all the austerity the rest of us are forced to endure. Austerity, you will recall, that was made necessary by the same ultra-rich when they crashed the world economy (and many of the ultra-rich have done quite well out of the global financial crisis as well, I might add)

  • Daniel Henry 16th Oct '14 - 5:04pm

    Slight correction Simon, they pay 29.7% of Income Tax.
    I suspect that once you factor in payment of all the less progressive taxes such as Council Tax, their percentage of total tax take turns out to be a fair bit lower. 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon
    Sorry if you think I am being “negative”. I cannot imagine how you would react if I was not holding back.
    If you think the two comments above are negative it is good job I have not said what I really think.
    I know that I am not alone in thinking such things.

    Others are not lining up to comment because the man is now history and we should concentrate on winning Taunton in May 2015.
    Because of the strong local Governent base for Liberal Democrats in Taunton (which predates Jeremy Browne by some years) the seat it is still winnable.
    Still winnable despite the fact that once a selection has been completed there will be only a few weeks before the General Election begins in March.
    Still winnable despite the recent polling of the constituency showing Labour support up to 17%; not shocking given the sorts of things Browne has been saying in recent years but with a new candidate more in line with mainstream left of centre Liberal Democrat views the seat is still winnable.

  • A shame that we cant spend more time pontificating about the values in seeking a good quality of life rather than fixating on the quantity of life

  • How many Lib Dem MPs are not standing next May, it seems to grow and grow. Why?

  • Go on then, John Tilley – say what you really think then we can make an informed judgement.

  • This is one comment I have been sent and folks might like to reflect on:

    Not being a subscriber to libdem voice or a member of any political party, I have to admit the comments in the voice of some individuals about your article have truly surprised me. One of the things that i have admired about the lib dem party was that it was able to debate a broad church of ideas based around an ideology that was distinctly different from either the Conservative or Labour Party but that at the end of the day the policy making was largely democratic. Some of the people commenting so negatively about Jeremy’s stance on economic markets don’t seem to have grasped that. No wonder the lib dem party is in trouble if that is a reflection of the party faithful’s attitudes.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Oct '14 - 11:51pm

    I agree with Ed.

  • Daniel Henry

    “As a party believing in broad churches and reasoned debates, it’s disappointing that so many members wish to make disagreement with his views personal”

    It’s people like Brown that have narrowed the “broad church”, he has been in a position of power and ignored others opinions driving them away from the LibDems. I’m not a LibDem activist just a voter and from a voters point of view his leaving will not lose you any votes. With his right wing economic views and his involvement in the racist posters on lorries that toured London he seems to have much more in common with UKIP anyway.

  • @johntilley “He then morphed into the candidate for Taunton, remind me how big a majority did he have to overturn?”

    The Conservative MP he beat had a majority of 235 and increased his vote by 2500 and also his vote share. Jeremy, a PPC new to the seat, beat him with the highest vote share a liberal had ever achieved in the constituency. The only seat in the country we won off the Conservatives in 2005. (We lost several to them.)
    Must have been luck

  • His departure has made my week.

    I am delighted he is standing down.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Oct '14 - 1:29am

    Simon
    I see you did not answer Theakes’ question. Why are the numbers of MPs surrendering their seats growing. As for your second post, go and reread the preamble to our constitution – definately to the left of Labours present position. This is not the reason for our decline over the last four years, it is because our MPs seem to have forgotten the meaning of the words we are supposed to believe in.

  • Charles, quite. But then John Tilley never let’s the facts get on the way of personal animus

  • Charles 17th Oct ’14 – 12:40am

    No Charles it was not luck.   
    If you want to see the results forTaunton over recent General Elections you can follow this link —
    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/guide/seat-profiles/tauntondeane/

    The % for the Liberal Democrat candidate in three of those elections was –
    1997.   42.7%
    2001.   41.3%
    2005.   43.3%

    In 2005, the % increase in support  for the party across the country was 3.7%
    62 Liberal Democrat MPs were elected, which happened to be the largest number for any third party since 1923.

    Taunton was NOT the only seat we won from the Tories.  
    Ask Tim Farron — that was the year he won his seat from the Tories, or Lorely Burt who won her seat from the Tories.
    After eight years of Labour Government it was excellent that we won any seats from the Tories but the individual winning candidates would all tell you that they did not do it on their own.   

    Jeremy Browne got a lot of outside help even from constituencies as  far away as Kingston where I live.   He was also able to build on and benefit from the years of work of the very well established group of Liberal Democrat Councillors in Taunton Deane.    The wafer thin majority of Mr Flook the Tory defeated by Jeremy Browne was one of the smallest Conservative majorities in the country.   Mr Flook did not help himself by some bizarre personal behaviour such as advertising for a wife.

    Given the base that was there before 2005, the hard working local Liberal Democrat councillors, the additional help from Liberal Democrats from elsewhere in the country and the excellent work and reputation of the previous Liberal Democrat MP, Jackie Ballard, one might have said in 2005 that if we were going to win any seat from the Tories it would be Taunton.   And given all those factors one might have expected a bit more loyalty in return.

    As Jonathan Calder says in his Blog —
    “..I do wonder what the chair of Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats made of Jeremy Browne’s resignation letter. 
    I suspect Jeremy’s excitement about his own future was the not the chair’s first concern.”

  • Tabman 17th Oct ’14 – 6:57am

    For facts see my last comment. Do you have some different facts? Or is it perhaps you who is getting a bit personal?

    My dislike of Jeremy Browne derives from his behaviour and his politics in recent years, which I don’t think even he would pretend was the stall he set out for Taunton voters in either the 2005 or the 2010 electo. You may react differently to his lack of loyalty to the party but when I watch Jeremy Browne last week on TV praising Boris Johnson the Conservative Mayor of London who has just been selected as a Conservative candidate for the next General Election I wonder if the world has gone mad. This is the same Johnson who in the same week that Jeremy Browne was heaping praise on him was saying on the Andrew Marr programme that there was no difference between his (Johnson’s) views and the recent Tory defectors to UKIP.

  • Rita Giannini 17th Oct '14 - 11:03am

    I don’t agree with many of Jeremy’s ideas, but he was an outstanding constituency MP and he has to be congratulated for this. I must admit, as a Somerset LD member, I would have preferred a bit more time to select a new candidate, but I am sure Jeremy will do his best to support his successor, whoever she or he will be. It is going to be tough in the west country, but I am convinced we can keep what we have, and maybe even do a bit better (keep your eyes peeled for Bridgwater…)

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 17th Oct '14 - 11:35am

    I agree with Rita and many others. Whilst I can understand the shades of opinion above, I would hope our party remains a broad one on many issues. However the principles of the party still stand and are correct.

    Our constitution’s preamble states: The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.

    You may say this is vague and all parties should observe the same – but democracies struggle with [the ideal of not being enslaved by] conformity. In the debates we have together, and within the party generally – we can disagree without conformity but with respect.

  • John Tilley. I always respect people who make the personal journey to our party in the face of what might be seen to be their “natural home”. Eschewing that natural home, with all the comforts of safe seats, money, buggins turn in power, in favour of the slog of becoming a Lib Dem MP shows loyalty and commitment in spades. We have been very fortunate over the years with the likes of jo Grimmond, John Thurso, Paddy and David Laws.

    Jeremy Browne is only human and given the bile he’s had to endure for daring to espouse Liberal views with a long tradition in the party is it any wonder there’s only so much he can take. We are poorer as a party when we deny such breadth of opinion in favour of your orthodoxy.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Oct '14 - 12:08pm

    Quoted from an anonymous source in Ed Fordham’s comment on 16th October, 10.40pm: ‘ One of the things that i have admired about the lib dem party was that it was able to debate a broad church of ideas based around an ideology that was distinctly different from either the Conservative or Labour Party’

    Since when was an unfettered advocacy of the free market and advocacy of school vouchers (an American and distinctively Republic idea) a. different to the Conservatives or b. the Blairite- right of Labour? Since when was the Lib Dems such a ‘broad church’ that it accepted Thatcherite attitudes to markets?

    We have debated these ideas (since the days of The Lady) and they have been found to be incompatible with our values of: a. equality b. fairness c. compassion. d. community.

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Oct '14 - 12:40pm

    Correction to my previous comment: Ed Fordham’s comment on 16th October, 10.49pm – not 10.40pm.

  • Julian Tisi 17th Oct '14 - 1:16pm

    An excellent article and yes, I believe Jeremy Browne deserves our thanks. He doesn’t deserve some of the bile being poured out by one or two on this thread. There’s a convention in politics that once someone decides to call stumps on their political career that we recognise the human being behind the politician and even if we disagreed with them we’re gracious and respectful. I wouldn’t ask people who disagree with JB to say they thought he was wonderful and loved every bit of him but please – let’s be gracious and respectful.

  • David Blake 17th Oct '14 - 1:36pm

    Rita, I’ll certainly keep an eye open for Bridgwater. That’s where I joined the party back in 1972.

  • There’s no question that Jeremy Browne’s views are deeply liberal and Liberal. He is an asset to this party.

  • He certainly wasn’t an asset in government, he was moved out of one job and sacked from the other.

  • Paul Walter 17th Oct ’14 – 4:27pm

    No question ? It is clear from the views expressed in LDV by a lot of people that there are questions, especially about the description of Thatcherite views as any sort of Liberalism. Some hold the opinion that his views were clearly illiberal. Over the years, the repeated claim by Conservatives that he is really one of them, cannot be ignored. But he is history now and we should think about the future of the Liberal Democrats rather than rake over one member.

    Those who are better informed than me suggest that there are about a dozen seats where outside help could make a difference to hanging on to a LIberal Democrat MP. But how many members in the 600 seats where we will not be electing a Liberal Democrat in May have been asked to help in those twelve seats?

    The General Election proper will be in full swing in March. But in the precious weeks before then a great deal could be done in those dozen seats.

    If LDV devoted as much space to the candidates and campaigns in those seats over the next few weeks as it has to Jeremy Browne over the last few days, it would be a start.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Oct '14 - 7:02am

    Tabman writes, “Eschewing that natural home, with all the comforts of safe seats, money, buggins turn in power, in favour of the slog of becoming a Lib Dem MP shows loyalty and commitment in spades. We have been very fortunate over the years with the likes of jo Grimmond, John Thurso, Paddy and David Laws.”

    It reminded me of the Tory canvasser arriving at Broadlands, the home of Lord Mountbatten. On encountering the Earl on the drive up to the house and explaining who he was and why he was there, the Earl replied, “Ah! You’ll be wanting to speak to my butler.”

  • John, there is no question in my mind that Jeremy is deeply liberal/Liberal.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Oct '14 - 10:00pm

    @Paul Walter 18th Oct ’14 – 5:47pm

    “… there is no question in my mind that Jeremy is deeply liberal/Liberal.”

    Paul, the above is clearly a statement of fact and not in dispute.

    The issue for many of us was where the balance lay between his commitment to quasi-Thatcherite free market neo-liberalism and mainstream Liberalism.

    I do however believe John Tilley to be totally wrong though when he states “If LDV devoted as much space to the candidates and campaigns in those seats over the next few weeks as it has to Jeremy Browne over the last few days, it would be a start.”

    LDV has ALWAYS appeared to have a strange fascination with JB’s minority economic views. This is not just something that has occurred over the past few days 🙂

  • jedibeeftrix 18th Oct '14 - 10:38pm

    @ Malc – “He certainly wasn’t an asset in government, he was moved out of one job and sacked from the other.”

    I wonder if that was jeremy’s fault, or whether in a time of difficulty for lib-dem differentiation from the evil tories they opted to jettison the foreign office role in favour of more marketable do-good’ery?

  • Steve Comer 19th Oct '14 - 1:17am

    Lets be clear at the time Nick Clegg thought we should trade in Liberal influence in the Foreign Office to take a Ministerial position in DEFRA. This meant Jeremy was reshuffled, and David Heath was put in charge of the badger killing programme………. Great judgement call Nick!
    Jeremy was not a success in the Home Office, and Norman Baker is a vast improvement. Norman was terrific at the Conference Transform fringe on drug reform, and has been very sound this week attacking Tories for trying to out-UKIP Farage.

    As to Jeremy, am I alone in thinking that there is something that just doesn’t ring true about his sudden decision to stand down? If he’s been thinking that way for a while, why not announce earlier and allow the selection to happen alongside Somerton and Frome? And why write a book about ‘why you should vote Liberal Democrat’ just when he’s about to abandon ship? As to him not joining another political party, I wonder if there is a ‘yet’ we haven’t heard in that sentence?
    I have a feeling there is more to come out on this story, and that its probably not good news for Liberal Democrats…………

  • Steve Comer in his last two or three sentences says what many people are thinking. If Steve’s Instincts are correct then there will be a few people in the party with egg on their faces.

    Steve is also correct about the Tories’ clever tactic of dropping Liberal Democrat ministers in it. David Heath became a minister just before the badger cull had to be defended. Don Foster became the relevant minister just before the bedroom tax had to be defended. Paul Burstow was caught up defending the car crash of top down NHS reorganisation even though he had played no part in the crazy decisions to go down that route.

    On ministerial responsibilities, Clegg has been outwitted by the Tories time and again. As many people In LDV have pointed out — it is not the principle of Coalition that has been the problem of the last five years but the ham-fisted naive fumbling of Nick Clegg. The buck stops with him, he cannot dodge responsibility for this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '14 - 1:47pm

    simon

    The truth is exactly the opposite of what you state. The top 1% of tax payers contribute 29.7% of the total tax take.

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/27/how-many-pay-top-rate-of-income-tax-uk

    Still never let the facts get in the way of the politics of envy, eh?

    Are you the same simon who was claiming previously to be the voice of the deprived and alienated against the elite?

    Seems to me you are showing your true colours here – the voice of the financial elite, using trickery to get the victims of the society that you financial elite people have built to support you.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '14 - 2:11pm

    Tabman

    Jeremy Browne is only human and given the bile he’s had to endure for daring to espouse Liberal views with a long tradition in the party is it any wonder there’s only so much he can take.

    How much “daring” does it take to espouse views which are strongly pushed by the majority of the press in this country, by the country’s largest political party, by the vast majority of people who have financial influence in this country, by large number of pressure groups and think tanks which these people fund? I would have thought it is a bit more daring to question all this?

    The Liberal Party in this country evolved from an understanding that there was more to freedom than economic freedom, and that a naive approach to economic freedom restricted real freedom due to the way imbalance in wealth means the rich can push the poor around. If this was already an obvious issue at the turn of the 20th century, how very much more obvious has it become at the turn of the 21st century?

    In this country a strong Conservative Party remained in existence and gradually absorbed the more right-wing elements of Liberalism. That is why the Liberal parties of continental Europe tended to be more right-wing than our Liberal Party. Those absorptions include the shift of the likes of Arthur Seldon to become key influences in the rise of Thatcherism and the modern Conservative Party.

    So it seems to me that the Liberal Party and its heir the Liberal Democrats in this country has the purpose of representing those Liberals who are sceptical about an interpretation of freedom based largely on the market economy. People like Jeremy Browne seem to want to destroy that. So much that has been given here in his defence comes across to me as so arrogant – it just assumes that they are right and we who are sceptical are wrong, it pays no attention to the reasons those of us who are sceptical think this isn’t the route to true freedom, instead it just dismisses us as people who are incapable of thought and rather stupid compared to those enlightened free marketeers. See William Hobhouse’s comment “if we give away economic liberal ideas to the Conservatives and retreat into anti-wealth rhetoric”, well that’s NOT a statement of fact although put as one, it’s a statement of opinion which arrogantly assumes that it is right in the way it just takes for granted the idea that anyone concerned about the imbalance of wealth in this country is “anti-wealth”.

    It seems to me that these “Liberal views” have already been well tried – imported into the Conservative Party from the IEA, and the bedrock of what has motivated the Conservative Party in recent years. Many people – perhaps even MOST people – in this country have not experienced them as enhancing their freedom. I would be more accepting of the claim of those who are still keen on them to be “Liberal” if they were also to show that liberal ability to accept a plurality of voices and to accept that just perhaps they themselves may be wrong and others may be right, or at least have a legitimate point of view.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '14 - 5:19pm

    Sorry, must have missed out the closing italics tag on the last message. The first paragraph is the quote from “Tabman”. The rest is what I want to say in reply.

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